As the man who rebooted X-Men comics with Ultimate X-Men – inspired by the look and stripped down vibe of Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men movie – it’s fairly serendipitous that Mark Millar is contributing to the franchise that he was initially inspired by as creative consultant on 20th Century Fox’s crop of Marvel superhero movies, especially now Singer is back as director for the second prequel, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which follows on from 2011’s X-Men: First Class and is due in cinemas 18 July 2014.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Miller, speaking exclusively to SciFiNow. “Even just as a fan. The first X-Men really launched the wave of superhero movies we’ve been loving for the past decade after some horrific stuff in the Nineties so having him back in the world he started just feels right.
“X2, I think, is one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. The idea of this guy being back in the fold and planning something as ambitious as this picture can only be good news.”
It’s certainly ambitious, the comic-book story arc the movie is based on involves a dark future where mutants are hunted by giant robot sentinels and imprisoned in gulags – many favourite characters meet their end, and one X-Man, Kitty Pryde, travels back in time to the ‘present’ to prevent the chain of events that kicks this whole thing off.
“I think as long as it’s done right…” said Millar of the dangers in such mythology heavy material. “I know how it’s done, so I’m not worried. I’ve been in all these meetings and talked about it at length with everyone, and everything I hear sounds incredibly mainstream. It’s no more difficult than The Terminator, or whatever, there’s one element of time jump in it, but other than that it’s absolutely fine.
“It’s hard for me to say without actually spoiling the movie but [producer Matthew] Vaughn – the guy who made the $28 million Kick-Ass look like a $78 million movie, you know? – I completely trust him when it comes to stuff like that – he knows exactly what he’s doing, and Simon Kinberg [X-Men: The Last Stand, Sherlock Holmes writer] has actually done a phenomenal job on the screenplay with him so it’s worked out really well.”
The complex mythology isn’t the only achilles heel of the X-Men franchise, though; it’s the glut of characters that seem to be brought in with each successive instalment, each one running the risk of detracting from the core cast and cluttering up the story.
“It can be,” agreed Millar. “I remember when I was writing Ultimate X-Men and people were saying ‘I want to see Gambit, I want to see Rogue, I want to see…’ Everybody has a list, and at first you think ‘I’m going to please everyone’ and then you realise you’re pleasing no-one by just throwing in ten second cameos, you know.
“I think that was the major problem with that first Wolverine movie and X-Men 3. Bryan Singer did such an incredible job with that original movie – it’s quite like Star Wars in that there’s Episodes IV, V and VI, and we’ve got the Matthew Vaughn prequels, and I love that – I love the fact that it simplifies so well. X-Men in the Nineties was so convoluted in comic-book terms, and Bryan drove a knife through it and make it work and simplified the whole thing.
“I’d like to have that same approach and if we are bringing in a character then it shouldn’t just be for a trailer or to get a picture up online, get people excited, it should actually have a point in the story.
“The trick with that is to try and keep the cast relatively small so that you actually care about them.”